Gluten Free Sourdough Starter
Gluten free sourdough rocks socks. Truly! We live on the west side of life and sourdough bread regularly appears as an option at every deli we know. The tang of sourdough reflects the region from which the starter sprang. In the Pacific Northwest, sourdough tastes slightly milder than San Francisco sourdough, but is no less complex and complementary to our favorite breads. Hopefully, this article will take the frustration out of creating your own gluten free sourdough starter. This is not brain surgery or something to fear. Go with the flow and all will be well.
Give Your Starter a Kick
We make our sourdough starter from superfine brown rice flour, (we use Authentic Foods). If you use a brown rice flour that is not labeled “superfine”, your starter will lack volume, and it will be gritty. Trust us on this. We had a side by side comparison of each, using the same method. Superfine flour creates a sourdough starter that is viscous, fragrant, full, and worthy of your time. Also, It helps if you add what we call a “bonus” ingredient to kick it off. We’ve used our homegrown ripe concord grapes, red cabbage leaves and Kombucha water from our SCOBY hotel (each contain natural yeasts. Look for the dusty-looking coating on organic grapes and cabbage.) All work wonders, but if you asked which bonus ingredient produced our favorite starter, Dave votes grapes and I say Kombucha. Both batches have unique characteristics; however, in my opinion, the sourdough from the Kombucha batch turned out terrific! It has a yeasty smell and flavor, and the starter is VERY bubbly and forgiving. You may also purchase packaged gluten free sourdough starter to boost your adventure; however, you will need to follow the directions on the package.
It Continues with Patience
Patience and a whole lot of love for your starter are required to be successful, especially around midweek. What you need to know is that around day 4, you will have to take 227g (8 ounces) out of the bowl once a day to keep it real. Otherwise, the volume of starter is too much to create the action needed to bubble and rise within the desired time frame. At least, this method worked for us. If your starter is overflowing, feel free to remove another 113g (4 ounces.) Also, the smell of week old sport socks may have you running the other way. Move through this stage with the grace of a champ – the stink does not last forever. Finally, do not cave in and feel your starter is ready until around day 6 or 7. You will definitely see the surface crack and a slight rise in the middle if you follow directions.
Measure by Weight for Success
If you are new to using sourdough in recipes, it’s easier to begin with a balanced sourdough starter to successfully replace the water and flour in a typical recipe without using a lot of math. The baker’s term for this is 100% hydration. For example, if you add 2 ounces of water to a starter, add the same amount of flour in weight – not volume. Do not measure out 1/2 C of water and 1/2 C of flour. They will not weigh the same. Using weight measurements prevents having either too much flour or too much liquid in your recipe.
How to Substitute
To substitute sourdough starter in most of your recipes, replace equal amounts of flour and water by weight with sourdough starter. For example, the bread recipe calls for 10.5 oz of water, and 12 oz of flour. You want to substitute 8 oz, (which is about 1 C,) of sourdough starter. Eight ounces of sourdough starter equals 4 oz (113g) of water plus 4 oz (113g) of flour. So, your recipe will now use 6.5 oz 9184g) of water (subtract 4 oz of water used in the starter,) and 8 oz (227g) of flour (subtract 4 oz of flour used in the starter.) Easy peasy.
Check Starter Before You Bake
Sourdough starter must be active before you begin baking with it. You will notice air bubbles or pockets in the starter and it has a nice rise and tangy smell. If it smells too tart, or has little rise or bubble action, you will need to feed it at least 12-24 hours before you add it to a recipe. We keep our starter in the refrigerator and normally feed it once a week. After feeding, we keep it on the counter for a few hours to make sure the yeast has time to feel happy and do it’s thing before returning to the refrigerator. If we plan to bake, we keep it on the counter for a minimum of 12 hours. We prefer to stress it a bit to bring out the tangy taste we enjoy. What this means is that we wait between 18-24 hours after feeding to bake. The starter must be bubbly, and the surface must be cracked and slightly domed. If not, we start a once a day feeding schedule of 4 fl oz water plus 4 oz flour until cracked and domed. If you don’t see activity within 1-2 days, follow the directions for Day 4 below until your starter matures.
Once your sourdough starter is mature, store it loosely covered in the refrigerator and feed it once a week, (2 fl oz of water plus 2 oz of flour – if you use starter frequently, use 4 oz water plus 4 oz flour.) An important rule to remember is that you want to replace in weight what you take out in weight. If you remove 8 oz, then you will want to add back 4 fl oz water plus 4 oz of flour if you are following the 100% hydration ideal. Allow some counter time after feeding before moving to the refrigerator. This trick seems to work wonders for our sourdough starter.
Customize Your Starter
Many people ask what kind of gluten free flour they should use to make sourdough starter. We tried using regular brown rice flour, superfine brown rice flour, teff flour and buckwheat flours (both light and dark.) For our taste, and for all-purpose use, we chose superfine brown rice flour (less grit, quicker to mature.) It’s easy to work with, and fairly neutral in flavor. Superfine brown rice flour is also an ingredient in our flour, Flour Farm Organic Gluten Free Flour Blend. Superfine brown rice sourdough starter complements our recipes perfectly. However, you may use your favorite gluten free grain flour. You may have to adjust your feeding schedule or timing through another online post or through trial and error. We do not recommend using a starch.
Given the details outlined in this blog, your starter may vary given the temperature of your home, the precision of measurement, the quality of your chosen flour, and the quality of your water. In addition, you may have kombucha brewing in the kitchen or a compost sitting on the counter. These two factors bring additional yeast strands to the mix. The best way to deal with creating your own starter is to relax and go with the proverbial flow. If your starter turns black or has not matured within 8 days, start over. Don’t give up. It took us several tries before we felt like the starter was, “right.”
Teri’s Sample Diary for Those Who are Curious
This is my diary for the latest batch of sourdough starter that used Kombucha water as a kick start bonus ingredient. Day 1: Followed instructions and started at 9:30 am. Day 2: Fed as directed at 9:40 am and 5 pm. Oops! Forgot to feed before bed. Day 3: Fed as directed at 8:30 am, 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm. (Yes, it was only 2 hours later! I was dog tired.) Day 4: Removed 227g/8 oz and fed as directed at 9:15 am, 3:15 pm and 8:30 pm. Day 5: Removed 227g/8 oz and fed as directed at 9 am and 3:30 pm. Oops! Forgot to feed before bed. Day 6: Removed 227g/8 oz and fed as directed at 9:30 am, 3 pm and 11 pm. Day 7: Removed 340g/12 oz and fed 9:15 AM. By 2 pm, my starter was cracked and domed. I then removed 2 cups (454g/16 oz) of starter and stored the rest in the refrigerator. I made pancakes and a pumpkin sourdough bread with the discard. The next day, I removed 3 cups (681g/24 oz) and made another pumpkin bread and a double batch of chocolate chip sourdough pancakes to freeze. I fed my starter 56g/2 oz flour and 56g/2 oz of water, allowed it to settle for an hour and put it back into the refrigerator. Now you know that this is not a process to stress over. If on days 6 and 7 your starter is totally overflowing your bowl, then remove 1.5 -2 C (340g/12 oz or 454/16 oz) first thing in the morning.
Gluten Free Sourdough Recipes
We have many gluten free recipes that use our sourdough starter. Our favorite is sourdough pancakes! We also make sandwich bread (both in the oven and the bread maker,) English muffins, and other specialty breads. Here is the link to Flour Farm’s main recipe page where you will find another link devoted to our gluten free sourdough recipes.
Thank you, Sadie Sheffer for sharing Srsly’s sourdough bread starter instructions at Experience Life. The information shared helped get us over the 4 day hump! Please share with us your experience making gluten free sourdough starter. Leave a rating and comment in the section provided below.
Peace & LOVE – Teri
P.S. Flour Farm gives back. We are committed to bringing healthy food to members of our community. If you are looking for replacement ingredients, please consider supporting Flour Farm and 2nd Harvest by clicking on this Amazon Associate link. We donate 50% of the profit made from Amazon purchases to 2nd Harvest, which is a local organization dedicated to feeding our children, our community and helping those in need. You will be sent directly to Amazon.com; we do not store any of your information. Thank you and share the love.– Teri & Dave
Photos by DuPree Productions; Page updated 4.20 for clarityPrint
No fuss, Gluten Free Sourdough Starter adds a delicious new dimension of flavor to your baked goods. Enjoy!
Choose Gluten Free, Non-GMO & Organic Ingredients.
- Superfine Brown Rice Flour – start with at least a 3 lb bag (1.3 kg)
- Warm Filtered Water
- Bonus ingredients: 1 large red cabbage leaf with white powdery appearance, torn into 3 pieces OR several local grapes OR 1 T (15 ml) unflavored Kombucha or SCOBY water
Equipment: Digital scale (preferred,) Large glass bowl or container with loose fitting lid, Measuring cups, Sturdy spoon
Note: The amount of flour and water is listed by weight using both metrics and ounces. Metrics are listed first followed by ounces. Example: grams or milliliters/ounces.
Use this daily diary as a guide to help you make delightful starter. If you do not have a large bowl use less than the amount listed here by weight – just use equal amounts of each. The key is to be patient enough to allow the starter to mature. The surface needs to crack and dome before it’s ready to use. You should see the starter rise and bubble. Also, you want to move through the stinky phase into the earthy, distinctly sourdough smell phase. Be patient! No worries. It’s all good.
Day 1: In a large glass bowl or one gallon glass container with wide mouth, blend together 113g/4 oz of superfine brown rice flour with 118 ml/4 fl oz of warm (not hot!) filtered water. Fold in bonus ingredients if using. If using Kombucha, remove 1 T of water and add 1 T of Kombucha to the measure cup before mixing with the flour. Loosely cover the bowl with a tea towel and allow mix to sit at room temperature (about 68 F/20 C). If your home is cooler, place bowl in a warm area such as the top of your refrigerator. Try not to disturb the yeast party going on for at least 24 hours.
Day 2: After 24 hours, remove the bonus ingredients (cabbage or grapes) and begin feeding your starter 118 ml/4 fl oz of warm filtered water + 113g/4 oz of superfine brown rice flour every 8 hours (use 6 am, 2 pm and 10 pm as guide times.) Stir to completely incorporate flour and water. Keep loosely covered and store in a warm area of your home where it will not be disturbed between feedings. (If you miss a feeding – don’t freak! It will be OK). Your starter may remind you of wet play-dough.
Day 3: Follow directions for Day 2.
Day 4: Hang in there! Feed schedule is the same as Days 2 and 3. At the first feeding, remove 227g/8 oz of starter and discard. Continue to follow directions for the previous few days. If you accidentally skip a feeding, again – don’t freak. It will be OK. In our experience (yes! we have forgotten to feed the starter,) it takes a bit longer to mature.
Day 5: Your starter should smell nice and ripe (pungent and sour are more appropriate descriptions!) Also, bubbles should appear around the edges and on the surface if they haven’t already. Continue with Day 4 directions.
Days 6-7: Follow directions for Day 4. During these days, your starter should start to appear cracked on the surface and bubbly underneath. A dome will start to rise in the center. Once the dome appears, your starter is mature and you are ready to start baking! If your starter is overflowing the bowl, it’s OK to remove more than 8 oz (227g) at the first feeding. Use your judgement; however, I would not remove more than 2 C (454g/16 oz).
When your starter matures, you are ready to bake and will need to use it within 24 hours or refrigerate. When we first refrigerate, we will reduce the amount to about 3-4 cups, feed it, (either a total of 4 oz or 8 oz depending on how much we plan to use it, and then refrigerate.) We generally keep about 4 cups (907g/32 oz) in the refrigerator at a time. Be prepared to bake up a storm with the discard. We make pancakes and bread and store them in the freezer.
Using Your Starter
These instructions make a starter that is 100% hydrated, which means that there are equal parts flour to water. This makes substituting starter in a recipe fairly straight forward. See the note about hydration below. Take care to stir your starter before measuring. The top is very bubbly and airy. The bottom is more solid. You need to stir to even out the blend and correctly measure.
Maintenance: If you are not baking with the starter within 24 hours, begin the once a week feeding schedule (57g/2 oz flour + 59 ml/2 fl oz warm water.) If you use it more frequently, double the amount. After feeding, allow to sit at room temperature loosely covered for a few hours before refrigerating.
Using after refrigeration: Pull the amount of starter needed from the refrigerator at least 12 hours before baking, and place it in a warm, protected area. Replace the amount of starter removed from the refrigerated container with half water and half flour. Optional – but we have the best results when do follow this: Allow the yeast to activate in the starter, which means leave at room temperature for an hour or two before returning to the refrigerator
Trouble Shooting: If the sourdough starter that you removed from the refrigerator does not appear mature or does not start to rise or puff after a few hours, you will need to feed the entire batch and wait for it to mature before you use it. If you don’t see any action, continue with a room temperature feeding schedule every 8 hours as outlined in Day 4 above until you see a cracked and domed surface. It’s important to note that we have only had to feed it once when this happened, 4 fl oz of water and 4 oz of flour, before it started to show signs of maturing and we left it alone until ready to bake.
Hydration: This recipe makes a balanced sourdough starter at 100% hydration. This means that you will substitute equal amounts of flour and water in whatever recipe you want to adapt. For example, if you want to use 8 oz of starter, you will need to reduce the amount of liquid in a recipe by 4 fl oz (113g) and reduce the amount of flour by 4 oz (113g).
Weight Measurements: We break down the weight of our water and flour into either 2 oz (57g) or 4 oz (113g). You can use whatever amount you want. These amounts are easy for us to remember to use consistently. Also, you may want your sourdough to have a different percentage of hydration, so your weights may vary and not be equal. So far, for all of our recipes on Flour.Farm, we use sourdough starter at 100% hydration; therefore, we replace with equal amounts of flour and water. If this changes – we will distinctly note it in the recipe.
Keywords: gluten free sourdough starter
Looking for delicious gluten free recipes? Head on over to Flour Farm’s recipe page. Happy baking!